As the world opens up again, many people are desperate for a little bit of self-care. Whether your feet ache or your neck’s stiff from hunching over a computer, everyone deserves to sit back and relax next year.
Bulgaria may not be the first location that springs to mind for wellness breaks, but the country’s spa history can be traced back thousands of years.
South of the Balkan Mountain range, the town of Hisarya was most likely first settled around 6,000 BC because of its hot mineral springs. The area eventually became a Thracian city before it was conquered by the Romans when it was named Diocletianopolis.
Although no longer the bustling city it was during Roman times, Hisarya has retained its abundant spas. In fact, Bulgaria is teeming with spas. There are over 700 springs in the country providing ample opportunities to unwind in top-notch hydrotherapy locations.
The historical angle
Spa days may seem like just relaxation, but balneotherapy is tipped to improve many health conditions from eczema to arthritis. To bathe as the Romans did, heading to Hisarya is a must.
Nowadays, Hisarya has 22 springs that range in temperature from 41°C to 52°C and are all potable. The water is so tasty, it’s even recommended to bottle some up and take it home with you.
The town is filled with spas that can offer any number of wellness treatments.
Some treatments on offer include week-long programmes that claim to help with conditions such as chronic gastritis, arthritis and diseases of the peripheral nervous system.
When not being tended to by the spa's staff, you can also take a trip around the town’s historic sites. It still has remnants of its ancient Roman walls and you can find displays of excavated treasures dating back to the Thracians.
Getting down and dirty
The healing qualities of mud have long been argued by cultures ranging from the ancient Egyptians to modern-day Bulgarians.
Take yourself to the edge of the Black Sea in Bulgaria to the spa town of Pomorie to get the ultimate mud spa experience. In the ultra-saline Lake Pomorie, people smear themselves with the mud taken from the bottom of the lagoon.
The mud is rich in sea salts and when applied to the skin is said to provide healing qualities for problems with the musculoskeletal system. There are even local beliefs that the mud can cure infertility.
Whether or not it is the miracle cure some claim, after a long day of coating yourself in mud and rolling in sand, your skin will feel soft and revitalised. Afterwards, you can chill out in one of the town’s many spas or take yourself down to Sunny Beach, the party town just North of Pomorie for a drink and a boogie.
Something for everyone
One of the best places to go to if you’re looking for the ultimate wellness retreat is the town of Velingrad.
It is located at the edge of the Rhodope mountains and contains 80 mineral water springs; the largest amount in one place in the whole country. The springs have different mineral levels and cause the unique chemical make-ups of the town's spas, which locals can recommend to you depending on the health benefits you're hoping for.
Surrounded by European black pine forests, the clear mountain air will revive your lungs while the warm waters will put your whole body at ease.
A highlight of the town is Lake Kleptuza, the largest karst spring in Bulgaria. Unlike most of the recommendations in this article, Kleptuza’s waters remain ice cold at 8°C throughout the year. It is the source of much of Velingrad’s water and a great place to take a small pedalo ride to luxuriate in the unique forest surroundings.
No trip to Velingrad is complete without a dip in the warm spas. Spas in the area offer a stay in the lap of luxury, with indoor and outdoor hot springs, a collection of saunas including Finnish, Hammam and Russian-style baths, steam rooms and an almost endless array of beauty and massage treatments.
With thermal spas open throughout the year, there’s no wrong time to take a trip to Bulgaria and get that wellness break you deserve.